zack + emily :: intertwined

The beautiful tension that led to this ceremony was breathtaking. With every moment that passed, there was a growing anticipation for the lifelong commitment Zack and Emily would make to each other. The air was cool, yet saturated with careful prayer. The sun was gently shining through the leaves of each tree, cascading warm rays of light that fell on each soul.

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As a photographer, I couldn’t think of a more intimate encounter with a person than capturing a wedding ceremony. Each wedding day is a manifestation of the most vulnerable moments of a life. As the time passed in preparation, a longing to speak with Zack welled up inside Emily’s heart. Tears rolled down her makeup as his soft voice spoke through the phone. Each word quieted her spirit and brought peace to the chaos of the moment.

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For Emily, slipping into a gorgeous wedding gown was filled with overwhelming emotions of shame. Her journey to this place was marred with dreadful self-hatred. In an attempt to overcome the false image she had of herself, she was overwhelmed with bulimia. Bearing the image of her own body brought with it a burden that fell down her face in tears too heavy to hide. Each button of her gown was a reminder of the past pain she endured.

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These negative thoughts have built a wall around her heart for years. However, one person could speak into the darkness and call forth her beauty. His name was Zack and he was greatly anticipating the first moment he would see his beloved bride take the first step down the aisle.

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After much needed time with these sweet women who supported her journey through recovery, she found the courage to embrace this day. Each friend paused with her and prayed for peace to surpass all of our flawed understanding. And in this shaded yard, joy was embraced as they celebrated a Father’s ever-present love.

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Broken bread and spilled wine sat at the center of this ceremony. Patiently waiting to be consumed. And every step of the processional was an anticipation of the beauty that comes from partaking in this feast. Her wait for this moment was not in vain. It was fulfilled. Her roots were holding deeply to its foundation. The love of God, their community, and her recovery were unshakable.

Planted in this moment was a companion whose roots would forever be intertwined with hers. Gentle and still they swayed in the breeze. It was quiet as everyone embraced the same movement of wind.

As the ceremony ended, together we danced with smiles and laughter—deep belly laughs that rang through the wooden pews. Their separate lives have been eternally joined together.

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For in all the areas they lack, they now lack together.

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In all the moments they conquer, they now conquer together.

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In all the seasons they grieve, they now grieve together.

And in all the places they grow, they now grow together. At the end of the night, each person celebrated these deep roots with an air full of effervescent bubbles. They walked together, hand-in-hand embracing the full healing, humanity, relationship, and future that is now forever part of their story.

I AM ENOUGH (3/3)

Part three, the final installment of a photo series on the resilience of the human experience. Captured from a recent trip to India.

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After a day spent filming five women in the surrounding villages who are involved in a micro-loan program, I was exhausted. We ended this day outside the home of this pastor who was the leader of the micro-loan program. She bustled through the village on her scooter, introducing me to each of the woman I had the privilege of interviewing. When I first met her, I was immediately drawn to the gentle courage that radiated from her smile.

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The sun was setting, which meant the light to film was fading. As I was packing up my equipment, my translator approached me. He said, "The pastor wants to share her story with you." I imagined she thought about this request all day. I have learned to never deny the courage of a person willing to share a story. I evaluated the strength of my batteries and the space on my memory cards. Everything appeared to make it through one more shoot.

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The translator and I gathered outside her home in plastic chairs. The evening was settling in and all that illuminated our faces was the hanging light bulb attached to a wire. 

“Mom, come fast! We got in trouble. We are at home but some people, they locked the home outside.”

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Seconds into her story, I was enthralled. In 2004, the pastor’s daughter called her while she was meeting with the women in her village. The men in the village were outraged by the ministry work of the pastor. They showed up at her house to settle the dispute once and for all. Because the pastor was not at the house, the men locked her daughter, son, and mother inside until she arrived. The men demanded that she pack up and leave the village immediately. She was determined to stay, replying: “I have done nothing wrong. I will not leave.”

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The men in the village unlocked her house and began to beat her in front of her family and the whole crowd. She remained tenacious. When they realized she was not going anywhere, the men came to their senses. The crowd departed and the men allowed her and her family to stay.

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The pastor continued her ministry until 2012, when her daughter committed suicide. This led to a deep depression and sadness that took months to overcome. Through the strength of God, the love of her community, and the resilience of her soul, she overcame the depression. To this day, the whole village accepts her as their leader and family because she has remained steadfast through countless trials. She continues to provide business opportunities for women and education for children in her village.

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As the night ended with the three of us sitting outside the pastor's house, I didn’t have words to express my gratitude. All I could promise was to carry the burden to share her story.

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Dear pastor, it might not be a massive audience but I will share your testimony as a way to glorify God and encourage humanity towards resilience in the presence of hardship. 

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YOU ARE ENOUGH.

I AM ENOUGH (2/3)

Part two of a photo series on the resilience of the human experience. The countless untold stories that I encounter remind me of the burden and need to press even deeper into the art and craft of storytelling.

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While in India, my heart skipped countless times thinking about the honor I had to spend a Sunday morning with a leprosy community. As someone who cares deeply about the suffering of the human experience, this was a piece of humanity that I needed to embrace with my own arms. Even though I could recount written narratives of leprosy, they were all separated by the distance of history. It’s hard to imagine this disease still exists when we are constantly surrounded by the modern use of medicine. 

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As I walked along the dirt road of a community built out of love, I found myself carrying camera equipment that was insufficient to recreate the experience of physically being here. 

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My translator led this small team of people to stop at a specific home. With a stern, thick Tamil accent, the translator called out to the residents of this particular wooden structure. A 75-year-old man came wobbling to the door, shoulders slumped in an exhaustion I have never seen. They bantered back and forth as this man stepped into the hot midday sun. He sat on his cot that was woven by the strength of the cord that held it together.

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As the interview began, I was in awe of the strength of this man. Though leprosy fought to destroy his physical body, he looked forward to the future hope of heaven where his limbs would be restored.

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Sitting outside this man’s home, I listened intently to him share his story of loss. Of all the things that leprosy had stolen from him, there was a constant that remains not only for him but for all of us. Somewhere in the middle of his story, I caught myself glancing over at the house. There in the doorway was a glimpse of unconditional love radiating from the gaze of his daughter. 

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Despite the many limitations that the human experience ensures, there is a truth that remains constant. In the eyes of this daughter, her father was a hero without limitations. Over and over again, her love reiterated one simple truth:

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YOU ARE ENOUGH.